SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - The USA Softball Women’s National Team is gold medal game-bound following wins against Canada and Cuba Friday and Saturday at the Pan American Games Qualifier, which included impressive performances by Golden Bear duo Lindsey Ziegenhirt and Valerie Arioto. The Eagles beat Canada 8-2 on Friday and Cuba 5-0 Saturday as Ziegenhirt and Arioto produced five of the team’s 13 total runs.
Ziegenhirt is in the midst of her breakthrough tournament as a member of Team USA and logged a 2-for-3 performance against Canada with a double and a solo home run for two runs and two RBI. Arioto continued her team-leading play in Puerto Rico by hitting 1-for-2 with a run and two walks.
Arioto began a successful second inning for the Eagles with a leadoff double, later scoring on an error by the Canada shortstop. Ziegenhirt followed with an RBI double to right field, driving in Texas’ Taylor Thom, then scored on a single by Tennessee’s Raven Chavanne. Arioto got another chance to bat at the top of the second and was issued a walk before the inning ended with the Americans leading 7-0.
Arioto drew another walk at the top of the sixth as the Eagles held on to a 7-2 lead. Ziegenhirt added the team’s final run at the top of the seventh with a solo homer.
Team USA cemented its spot in the championship game Saturday against Cuba, starting with a pair of homers at the top of the second to give the U.S. an early 2-0 lead. One of the long balls came from the No. 2 batter in the order Arioto as she followed Michigan’s Amanda Chidester’s leadoff home run.
At the top of the fourth, Arioto drew her team-leading 12th walk of the qualifier but was not able to score. Ziegenhirt echoed her at-bat at the top of the fifth with a leadoff walk. Two singles and a sac fly by Tennessee’s Lauren Gibson brought Ziegenhirt across from Team USA’s run No. 3. Arioto continued the rally a few batters later with a fielder’s choice that scored Chavanne.
Ziegenhirt finished 0-for-2 with a run and a walk, and Arioto was 1-for-2 at the plate with one run, two RBI and a walk.
With the wins, the Americans qualified for Sunday’s championship game, set for 12:30 p.m. PT against the winner of the Cuba vs. Canada bronze medal game at 10 a.m. PT.
Full recap: USA vs. Canada, courtesy of USA Softball
Following an eight hour rain delay, the USA Softball Women's National Team defeated Canada 8-2 to capture their first playoff win at the Pan American Games Qualifier the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America and USA Softball announced today. With the win, the U.S. moves on to the second round of playoffs, where they face Cuba at 3 p.m. EST.
Sara Nevins (Pineallas Park, Fla.) got the start in the circle for the Red, White and Blue, picking up four strikeouts while issuing five hits, two walks and two runs in five innings pitched. Jessica Moore (Sutter, Calif.) entered in relief in the top of the sixth, picking up one strikeout and Cheridan Hawkins (Anderson, Calif.) threw the final inning of the game, striking out two. As a team, USA had seven hits and seven RBI, with Lauren Chamberlain (Trabuco Canyon, Calif.) and Lindsey Ziegenhirt (Elk Grove, Calif.) each collecting two RBI. Ziegenhirt finished the contest going 2-for-3 with a double and solo homerun.
Both sides would put runners on base in the first inning, but great pitching and defense kept any runs from crossing the plate. Valerie Arioto (Pleasanton, Calif.) led off the second inning with a double and later scored after Taylor Thom (Cedar Park, Texas) reached base following an error by the shortstop. Thom then stole second base, bringing Ziegenhirt to the plate. With a 2-2 count, Ziegenhirt hit a line drive to a diving right fielder to record her second double of the Qualifier, plating Thom. Destinee Martinez (Corona, Calif.) then reached on a drop ball by the first baseman and a walk to Michelle Moultrie (Jacksonville, Fla.) loaded the bases for the U.S.
A single by Raven Chavanne (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) pushed in another run for the Americans and a walk to Gibson and a sac-fly by Amanda Chidester (Allen Park, Mich.) plated two more runs. Chamberlain continued USA's scoring with a two-run single to give USA a 7-0 lead. In the bottom of the second inning, Nevins issued a walk to Jennifer Gilbert with one out, but a strikeout and a ground out to Chavanne at third kept Gilbert stranded at first.
Martinez would reach base in the top of the third with a one out walk, but two fly outs later, Canada returned to the plate. Canada got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the inning after Natalie Wideman led off with a single. Caitlin Lever then hit into a fielder’s choice to get Wideman out at second and a fly out gave the U.S. two outs. Jennifer Yee then singled to put runners at first and second before Heather Ebert singled to right field to score Lever and prevent the shutout.
Gibson led off the top of the fourth with a leadoff walk, but was caught stealing for the third out of the inning following back-to-back fly outs. Canada would get a leadoff single in the bottom of the inning but a pair of fly outs and a strikeout kept another Canadian run off the board. Much like the previous inning, USA put two runners on base with a set of walks in the top of the fifth, but a pair of fly outs brought Canada back bat. Lever started the bottom of the fifth for Canada with a single and advanced on a fielder’s choice with both runners being called safe. Nevins then issued a walk to Yee to load the bases before a sac-fly to Rhea Taylor (Atlanta, Ga.) in left field brought Lever home to bring the score to 7-2.
Both sides were kept form scoring in the sixth inning as USA stranded two base runners after Gibson connected for a single and Arioto reached on a walk. Moore entered in relief for Nevins in the bottom of the sixth, retiring the Canadians in order. The Red, White and Blue added another run to extend their lead after Ziegenhirt connected for a homerun in the top of the seventh, giving USA an 8-2 lead.
Hawkins entered the circle for the U.S. in the bottom of the seventh, where she issued a strikeout to her first batter faced. A groundout to Chamberlain at first brought Yee back to the plate, who hit a double but Hawkins responded with a strikeout to end the game.
Up next for the eagles is a 3 p.m. EST matchup against Cuba. This marks the third time USA had faced Cuba this year. In their first meeting, USA defeated the Cubans 4-1 and then walked away with a 5-1 come from behind win in their second game. Live stats and online streaming (pay-per-view) will be available throughout the Pan American Games Qualifier and links can be found at USASoftball.com.
Playoffs- Saturday (August 17)
GM 5: Brazil vs. Canada - 10 a.m.
GM 6: Puerto Rico vs. Dominican Republic - 12:30 p.m.
GM 7: USA vs. Cuba - 3 p.m.
GM 8: Winner of GM 5 vs. Winner of GM 6 - 5:30 p.m.
Finals- Sunday (August 18)
GM 9: Winner of GM 8 vs. Loser of GM 7 - 1 p.m. (BRONZE MEDAL GAME)
GM 10: Winner of GM 7 vs. Winner of GM 9 - 3 p.m. (GOLD MEDAL GAME)
Full recap: USA vs. Cuba, courtesy of USA Softball
The USA Softball Women's National Team punched its ticket to the Pan American Games Qualifier Gold Medal Game on Saturday afternoon after coming away with a 5-0 win over Cuba. With the win, the U.S. advances to the Championship Game on Sunday (August 18) at 3:30 p.m. EST against the winner of Cuba vs. Canada Bronze Medal Game, which is scheduled for 1 p.m.
“Our team plays hard every inning of every game,” said Amanda Chidester. “We always come out with great energy and we are starting to work really great together as a team.”
Both sides were retired in order in the first inning as two fly balls and a groundout silenced USA's bats and Cuba hit three groundouts. The Red, White and Blue started the second inning off in dominant fashion, as Amanda Chidester (Allen Park, Mich.) hit a solo shot over the centerfield fence and was followed by another solo homerun by Valerie Arioto (Pleasanton, Calif.). With the back-to-back homeruns, USA led 2-0 entering the bottom half of the inning.
Cheridan Hawkins (Anderson, Calif.) continued to shut down Cuba's offense as she issued two strikeouts and a popup to Arioto at first to bring USA back to the plate. With one out, Michelle Moultrie (Jacksonville, Fla.) hit a double to put a runner on base, but was left stranded at second with as the next two U.S. batters recorded the last two outs of the inning via a groundout and a strikeout.
Cuba led off the bottom of the third with a single by Minieyis Heredia, but Lindsey Ziegenhirt (Elk Grove, Calif.) connected with shortstop Kourtney Salvarola (Arnold, Md.) to catch Heredia attempting to steal second base. Hawkins then issued a walk to the next batter, but quickly bounced back with back-to-back strikeouts.
USA would strand another two runners in the top of the fourth inning as Arioto walked and then recorded the second out of the inning after Nicole Hudson (Webb City, Mo.) hit a groundball to shortstop, who threw it to second base. Taylor Hoagland (Flower Mound, Texas) moved Hudson to second base with a single, but a strikeout ended the inning. Cuba got a single from leadoff hitter Diamela Puentes in the bottom of the fourth. The U.S. defense kept Cuba off the board, as a fly ball to center field, a bunt and a strikeout quickly squashed a Cuban rally.
The eagles would put another three runs on the board in the top of the fifth inning as Ziegenhirt led off with a walk and was followed by a single from Moultrie. Raven Chavanne (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) loaded the bases with a single before Lauren Gibson (Pasadena, Md.) hit a sac-fly to center to score Ziegenhirt and advance the runners on base. With runners at second and third, Chidester laid down a perfect squeeze bunt to score Moultrie and advanced to second on a throwing error. Arioto continued the scoring rally for the U.S. after beating out a groundball to score Chavanne. Entering the bottom of the fifth, the U.S. held a 5-0 lead.
Cuba led off the bottom half of the inning with another single, prompting a pitching change for the U.S. as Jessica Moore (Sutter, Calif.) entered the circle in relief for Hawkins. Although the runner advanced to second on a passed ball, Moore issued two strikeouts and a fly ball to center field kept the runner from scoring.
Salvarola got things going in the top of the sixth inning with a single up the middle. Cuba's new pitcher Ainsley Lopez responded with a strikeout to Ziegenhirt before Salvarola was moved to second with a sac-bunt by Moultrie. With two outs, Chavanne laid down a bunt to the pitcher, who was able to get the speedster narrowly out at first to close out the top half of the sixth.
Despite a single in the bottom of the sixth, two groundouts to Gibson at second base and a grounder to Chavanne at third kept the score at USA 5, Cuba 0 as the game headed into the final inning. The U.S. was retired in order in the top of the seventh, needing just three outs to clinch their spot in the Championship Game. USA would do just that, as Moore struck out the first batter and Cuba hit two groundballs to record the last two innings of the game.
From the circle, Hawkins finished the game with five strikeouts, one walk, three hits and no runs allowed in four complete innnings to earn the win. Moore finished the final three innings, striking out three and allowing one hit.
Team USA will play in the Championship Game tomorrow (August 18) at 3:30 p.m. EST against the winner of the 1 p.m. EST matchup of Cuba vs. Canada. Live stats and online streaming (pay-per-view) will be available throughout the Pan American Games Qualifier and links can be found at USASoftball.com.